The USA may have the most sophisticated democracy on earth, but it is not a true democracy when Presidents have been elected by electoral college. In the “Federalist Papers” #39, James Madison proposed a mixture of state and population based elections for the President, even though he himself believed that a popular vote would be ideal. The key obstacle to a popular vote at that time was the difficulty in getting consensus given the prevalence of slavery.
In other words, we are still living in the shadows of slavery, and the situation is getting worse. The margin of Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory with 65.9 million votes was 2.9 million votes greater than Donald Trump’s 63.0 million votes. This margin of victory is substantially greater than the combined total of 3-4 previous Presidents who lost the popular vote (1876 Rutherford Hayes lost by 0.3 million, 1888 Benjamin Harrison lost by 0.1 million, 2000 George W Bush lost by 0.5 million, and 1824 John Quincy Adams won by contingent election but lost the popular vote by 0.1 million). It should not be surprising that Donald Trump is the least popular US President in his first year than any other President in US history, especially given the alleged collusion with Russia.
104 years after the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution which finally gave Americans the right to elect Senators, it is time to change the electoral college to a popular vote, closer to a true democracy. Let’s compare the process that led to the 17th Amendment to understand what it takes to make this change.
Until the year 1913 when the 17th Amendment was ratified, the US Senate was a “millionaire’s club” where the legislature selected the Senators from each state. The first attempts to change to a popular vote happened in 1826 when the House of Representatives proposed this change. The timing of this first proposal was two years after the Discovery Doctrine was used by the US Supreme Court as basis for granting land ownership to the European discoverers instead of Native Americans.
It took 87 years for the 17th Amendment to be ratified. In addition to the high pressure of campaign costs which require deep pockets, the GOP has multiple initiatives to re-draw congressional districts in the 21st century that are delivering some alarming results. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported an analysis of the November 2017 Doug Jones victory over Roy Moore as US Senator in Alabama: Even though Doug Jones won the popular vote in Alabama State-wide which includes six congressional districts, if all votes were counted by congressional districts, and we let the congressional districts dictate the winner, Roy Moore would have won by a 5-1 margin.
In this age of internet, moral innovators will be tested to take action and deliver a true US democracy. The new tax law just delivered an estimated $4 billion to Donald Trump family in the form of zero estate taxes while millions of Americans will likely lose medical insurance. We will not hear about these developments as the ultra-rich dictates Donald Trump’s approach to self-aggrandize at the expense of our democracy. The alternative is to remove our claim to be a democratic society.